Meïr Goldschmidt.

The Jew of Denmark, a tale; online

. (page 1 of 25)
Online LibraryMeïr GoldschmidtThe Jew of Denmark, a tale; → online text (page 1 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook












THE following translation of " En Jocle " was made
from the original Danish between two and three years
ago, although circumstances have retarded its publica-

It is now offered to the public by the permission, and
with the entire approbation, of its author, Mr. M. Gold-
sehmidt, of Copenhagen.


G-rosvenor Place, London.


"Ah, good madam," said he, "you must keep yourself
well to-day ; this is not a time for sick fancies. There is the
devil to pay with the Spaniards, but you must not be afraid
of the guns, for they will not hurt you."

" Schema lisroel !* she is ill ;" cried the sister, rushing to
the door to call her maid.

Philip Bendixen took Isaac Bamberger out of the room.
" What could tempt you to speak so as to frighten her ? " he
asked angrily.

" Heyday ! why, don't you know it was just not to alarm
her. Hark how the drums are beginning to beat, and the
guns to fire ! Was it not better to prepare her for all that P"

And loud indeed was the uproar the windows of the
houses shook as the drums (to whose measured sound
marched the burgher militia with their clanging arms) beat
lustily, and the single cannon the town possessed sent forth
its thunder, darkening the air with its volumes of smoke.

Great was the anxiety of Philip Bendixen, as he paced
hurriedly back and forwards, and in vain endeavoured to
busy himself with some out-door occupation.

At length the joyful news was brought to him that he was the
father of a fine boy. Philip sprung up in the air in his exul-
tation, and then laying his hands on his head, " Adaunoi
Elauheinu ! G-ebenscht sei dein nome ! "f "A son! A
son ! " he exclaimed, reverentially.

He rushed towards his wife's apartment to see the welcome
little stranger ; but being repulsed by the females who were
in charge therein, he ran into the shop, and kissed and
embraced Benjamin, shouting to him at the same time, " A
son is born to me ! "

" Madsel tauv !"J responded Benjamin.

"Thanks, thanks, Benjamin; and now it were well that
thou shouldst go with the joyful tidings to Eabbi Jokuf, he
shall be maul ; also to Simon Nasche, and all the other
Jews in the town. But my brother-in-law where is he ?
True, he went home. Kim over to him, and beg him to
come back presently and stop, Benjamin! " cried he, calling
him back, when he had got half across the street. " Here,
take a pound of coffee, and two or three pounds of sugar, and
some rice and flour, and this money, to old Martha. Tell
her I send it that she may have a day of feasting and
rejoicing in honour of my son's birth my son! yes, I have a
son ! "

* Hear, Israel ! An exclamation of terror or surprise.

t Lord, my God ! Blessed be thy name !

t Blessed be God !

$ This word may perhaps best be rendered by, " to stand father."


Almost as rapidly as events had been happening in Philip's
house, had the militia of this little town in Funen been deli-
vered from their apprehensions. The Spaniards had taken
their departure in the English ships, and it might have been
a question whether they or the townspeople were the most

The latter now fell on the Jews. Because they had not
taken any part in the warlike preparations, they were called
cowardly wretches, who were strangers to all patriotic feel-
ings and regard for their native ]and. Knots of people, 011
their way to the public houses, stopped before the habitations
of the Jews, and gave vent to their wrath by shouts of im-
precations, groans, and injurious words.

" These Christians are a droll set," said Isaac Bamberger,
with a sneer, to Philip, at whose door a group of common
people had stopped for a few minutes hooting and hallooing.
" They will not suffer the Jews to enter any of their militia
corps while there is peace, but when any disturbance hap-
pens, they rail at us for not serving with them. I trow I will
fo over and kick my dog, that is always chained up, because
e stays ever at home."

" And how will that punish them ? Let them scream them-
selves hoarse/' said Philip Bendixen, as he betook himself to
his wife's apartment.

Eight days after this, the little family were all assembled in
the invalid's chamber, on the occasion of the infant's admis-
sion into the Jewish community, and many were the excla-
mations of surprise and satisfaction at the boy's size and
beauty. Old Rabbi Jokuf laid on the cradle a horro a gold
coin on which was inscribed a Hebrew benediction, which
was to preserve the child from the evil eye and said, in an
elevated tone of voice, " He shall become strong as Judah,
and blessed with wisdom like Assur ! "

Isaac drank a bumper of wine, and cried, " Yes, that were
well ; but I must maintain that his arrival in this world took
place upon a day by no means the most fortunate for such an
event. Had the boy been a Christian, the martial uproar
that ushered in his birth would have betokened that he
should become a great hero ; but as a Jew, it will but give
him double aversion for war and warlike matters. He is des-
tined to be so timid, that even the Jews will call him coward."

All laughed except the mother ; for women are by nature
chivalric in soul, and love*courage in their sons. She replied,
" No, no, Isaac ; when the boy is brought up under thine
B 2


eyes, and sees every day thy big sword, perhaps he will not
turn out such a craven."

"A bargain!" cried the uncle. "I will bring him up!
After he is weaned, let him be my pupil."

It is time to make our readers somewhat acquainted with
this uncle, who had volunteered to play the part of an Aris-
totle to this Philip of Funen's son. He was what is rarely
found among the Jews, a tall and very powerful man. It was
told of him, that on one occasion, when two peasants began
to fight in his shop, he lifted one up in each arm, knocked
them several times together, and then flung them forth.
Though he was hated as a Jew, and envied as a rich man, all
his fellow-citizens stood in awe of him, and dared not but
treat him with respect when they saw his athletic figure
among them, and shrunk beneath the half-laughing, half-
threatening glance of his keen eye. His hair was already
beginning to turn gray, for he was past fifty. In his youth,
in Germany, his native land, he had been engaged in military
service against the French ; and after a variety of adventures
and changes of fortune, *he had settled himself in Denmark,
where he married a woman without fortune, and where
unforeseen losses had at one time plunged him into the most
abject poverty. He used in after-days to tell, with a degree
of pride and complacency, how he and his wife had subsisted
a whole winter on a capital of two rix bank dollars, which he
laid out in small wares, and, pedlar-like, went about the
country selling. When he came home one Friday evening,
he found his house burned down, his wife ill, and his only
child dead. Unconquered in spirit by these calamities, he
devoutly kept his sabbath, then burying his child on the
Sunday, he set forth with all his worldly goods made into a
bundle, tied up in a pocket-handkerchief, which he carried
under his arm. He now lived in a large house, and was a
wealthy man ; but whenever he saw a small coin, he failed
not to observe that his present fortune had commenced with
a similar insignificant sum, and therefore that he entertained
the greatest respect for such small money.

Philip Bendixen, the newly-made father, was a quiet and
peaceful man. The servants in his family, and servants often
give the truest character, averred only that he was terrible
when he was angry, but that his anger never lasted long. It
was rumoured that, during his bachelor estate, he had lived a
very gay, and not over strict life ; but this was merely a
report which might have had no foundation in truth, while
it was certain that after his betrothal he had become exceed-
ingly religious, and bitterly censured those who erred.


Late on the evening of the day when the somewhat noisy
ceremonial of congratulations had taken place, Philip Ben-
dixen stole softly into his wife's little apartment. She was
reclining behind the white curtains of her bed in a calm,
slumber, his child, its soft cheek tinted like a rosebud, was
sleeping sweetly in. its cradle, whilst the night-lamp cast a
mellowed light upon its little face ; and the Jewish matron
who had undertaken to watch by them had sunk into a deep
sleep on a low stool by the bedside.

Philip gazed in silence for a few moments on this scene of
comfort and repose ; his heart swelled, and he bowed his head
and prayed : " Almighty Father ! Biiler of the universe ! I
humbly thank thee that thou hast given me a son to read
Keadisli* over my grave. If it be thy will to call me hence
soon, take, I pray thee, all good fortune from my head, and
shower it over that of my son. I will bow down to the
dust and worship thy name, if thou wilt bestow prosperity
on him ! "

Such was the blessing invoked over the cradle of the child
who is to be the hero of this tale.


As the boy grew older, his father began to think of his
future education.

" He shi41 not go to school. He shall not have to put up
with risches,"^ said he, "and, being exposed to the sneers
and gibes of the other children, learn rudeness from them.
When he is old enough, I will teach him myself all that a Jew
ought to learn j and afterwards I will send him to Copen-

No one was more rejoiced at this determination than the
uncle, as it would permit of his amusing himself with the
child to his heart's content. Often did he come for the boy,
and taking him from his mother, carry him over to his own
house. There he would retire with him to a remote room,
and lock the door, so that it might have been supposed he
was instructing him in the art of magic. Had any one
seen Isaac Bamberger on these occasions, they might have
indeed imagined he was bewitched. He would seize up the
child in his arms, and jump about the floor with him, while

* A prayer for the soul of the dead; a requiem,
f Malignity towards the Jews.


lie howled in his ear, and made sundry noises resembling
trumpets, drums, the neighing of horses, the lowing of cows,
and the barking of dogs. When the infant laughed loudly
and scratched him in the face with his little nails, he would
set him on his knee to ride, and gallop him so violently that
the child, after trying to be amused, would end by crying.
The uncle would then take him by the ears, and hold him
tight until he was quiet, exclaiming, " I will teach you to be
afraid, youngster!" He then would make droll grimaces
until the child began to laugh, when he would catch him up
and hug him so closely that he would cry again. As the boy
ripened in intelligence, he would add to these exercises tales
about warriors and knight-errants, legends from distant lands,
and Bible anecdotes respecting the Jewish heroes of old, so
that the boy in after-years, not remembering where he liad
acquired all this legendary knowledge, almost fancied that it
had been born with him.

The father one day remarked to Isaac, who had as usual
come for the child, " The boy is so often with you, Isaac, that
he really will not know who is his father."

" I should make just as good a father to him as you," said
Isaac ; " and the child is turning quite clever under my care.
He can already say his Krisclimo* who taught him that, I
wonder P and now I will teach him to say the grace after
meals too."

" Yery well, Isaac, teach him what you like until he is six
years old ; I shall then take him in hand and instil into him
our Jewish lore.

" You teach him a great deal too much," said his mother,
with an air of anxiety ; " you tell him things he cannot com-
prehend. It would be much better for the boy if he were
allowedjx) play and prattle with other children, and sport
about in the open air."

The child looked at its mother as if he acknowledged the
truth of what she had said, and felt that she had prescribed
the best remedy for that infantine longing which made his
little cheeks so pale.

^ " To-morrow," cried the uncle, " he shall go with me on a
nice excursion into the country ! "

* The Jewish creed, which is introduced into their form of daily prayer.



HAPPY the man who can exclaim " He was'a schoolfellow of
mine a companion of my childhood !" Ah ! what meanings
does that one word schoolfellow convey ! Does it not speak
of the green meadow where you and your little friends played
together with hearty and exuberant glee ? or of the little
court-yard where you and your neighbours' children met and
wrestled until you quarrelled and cried? Tears such as
these are not shed in after-years ! Of the oranges that lay
piled up in pyramids in the grocers' windows, and which to
his great vexation always rolled down when you mischievously
knocked against the panes of glass ? Of the old woman's cat,
to which you used to tie bladders and chase it away, that she
might have a hunt after it ? Or of the many games whose
mysteries are only known to schoolboys ? Does it not speak
of the dark room, where you had to remain perfectly quiet,
because your aged grandfather had fallen asleep, and where,
in the dreamy stillness that prevailed, your thoughts had
flown to a little world of joy of their own, until your grand-
father, and every one, and everything in the real world around
you were forgotten? Does it not speak of the little damsel
for whom more than one of you would pluck pretty flowers,
and on whose account you learned to dislike each other you
hardly yourselves knew why ?

Then was the time that you received your first insight into
that stirring game which is called the world ; then was the
time when your unsuspicious mind freely sought and easily
found the two brightest blossoms of life friendship and
love ; then also were you all stamped in the same mould, and
beheld in each other's characters little more variety than in
each other's clothes !

Jacob grew up alone. He had no playfellows, for the other
Jewish families in the little town had no children of his age,
and the Christian children jeered at him when they saw him.
They never gave him his own name, but called hirn Moses in
derision. And when he approached them they would chuck
him under the chin by way of showing their contempt for him.
If ever he attempted to join in their games, they would hiss
him off, shouting at " the Jew usurer." He would then walk
slowly away, and, standing at a distance, cast many a wistful
look upon their merry play. Their rudeness discomfited the
lonely child, but it could not utterly annihilate the longing


which he felt to make one among them. This sense of his
own solitary situation, this vain yearning after companionship,
had been awakened so early in his childish mind, that he felt
as if it were inherent in him, and formed, as it were, a part of
himself from which he could not escape.

On one occasion his mother's brother came from another
town to visit her, and brought his little son with him. The
child went familiarly towards Jacob, who drew back timidly ;
but when his cousin spoke to him in a friendly tone, Jacob
his large dark eyes staring with surprise exclaimed, " Why
do you not call me Jew usurer ?"

Every one present started at this unexpected outbreak.
" They have been abusing the poor boy," said his mother's
brother. His father kissed him tenderly, but his uncle Isaac
asked, " Who called thee Jew usurer, Jacob ? "

" The children down on the beach always call me so," said

The next day his uncle took Jacob down to the beach ; but
when the children who were playing there saw this tall man,
they naturally kept silence. Nevertheless, Isaac Bamberger
could not control his indignation, but striding up to them he
seized one boy, and flung him with force among the group of
children. On seeing this, it suddenly occurred to Jacob why
his father had kissed him so affectionately the preceding day,
and why his uncle had accompanied him that morning to the
sea-shore. In an instant a bitter spirit of revenge seemed to
start up in his young mind as he remembered the insults to
which he had been subjected ; like a tiger just let loose from
confinement, he sprung upon one of the children, knocked him
down, and fell upon him furiously with tooth and nail. His
uncle, who supposed it to be a common boy's fight, stood by
applauding and encouraging his nephew ; but when he ob-
served that blood was flowing from the other boy, he ran up and
dragged him away. On seeing Jacob's ashy pale cheeks, blue
lips, clenched teeth, and bloodshot eyes, his hands filled
with hair from the other boy's head, his whole figure con-
vulsed with strong passion, the uncle feared he would be ill,
and taking him home, immediately sent for a physician to
see him. The child soon after fell into a deep sleep, in which
he remained many hours, and from which he awoke weak
and languid, but without any recollection of what had taken
^ But Isaac Bamberger was summoned before the magistrate


on account of the children to whom he had been the cause of
so much injury. He was condemned to pay a good deal of
his treasured gold to make amends to the parents of these
children ; and to avoid any similar assault in future, it was
ordered that Philip Bendixen's meadows, which extended to
the shore, should be enclosed by a high wooden paling.

There many and many an hour sat Jacob, separated from
all the rest of the world, the Broad Belt with its few sails
spread out before his fixed eye. In silence and solitude he
often wandered thither, and half hidden among the trees and
shrubs, he would gaze upon the majestic ocean when its ever-
rolling waves were glancing in the bright sun, or dark and
threatening, came dashing furiously on the shore. There, in
his loneliness, he would give the reins to his imagination, and
create a whole world for himself, wherein he and the few he
loved played conspicuous parts ; but whenever a dark shade
would cross these waking visions, it was the remembrance of
the children on the beach, his longing after them, and his
quarrel with them. If, however, by chance one of these
children met him in the street and smiled to him, or greeted
him in a friendly way, he would hurry to his favourite spot,
and please himself by thinking over all the nice things he
would like to give that child. He would weave a little story
in his own mind of that child being in some great danger, of
his rescuing him from it, and of the child in gratitude coming
to him, helping him over the wooden fence, and offering to
play on the sea-shore with him.

But which more frequently happened had one of the
children met Jacob when without his uncle's protection, and
commenced abusing him while disdainfully passing him, he
would retreat to his favourite spot, and thus discourse to him-
self : " Suppose I were to set fire to the corn-fields and put
it upon them .... There would be a search after me ; but
they should not catch me, unless I were to fall asleep, and
then they would find me and bind me fast. Perhaps they
would take me to their temple, and place me between the
pillars that support it ; and then, thinking they had me in
their power, they would gather round me, and cry, 'Jew
usurer ! ' ' Jew can you eat pork ? ' Oh ! then I would
seize the pillars with all my might, and pull until I pulled

down the house upon them and myself, and " Then he

would shudder all over at the scene his fancy had conjured
up, and finish by almost shedding tears at the bare idea of
having nearly killed so many human beings.



THESE sort of dreams took stronger and stronger hold of
the boy's mind ; but instead of trying to conquer such way-
ward fancies, he would encourage them until his head swam,
and his limbs trembled with excitement; yet this morbid
excitement had such charms for him, that he sought every
opportunity of flying to his solitary haunt near the sea,
secretly to indulge in these strange castles in the air.

As he sat there one day with his eyes half- closed, and his
mind absorbed in some gloomy vision, which gave an air of
pain to his countenance, his father happened to pass near him.
It was a day on which the shop was closed, and there was
nothing going on in the house. " What art thou doing
there ? " he called out to his son.

Jacob started up, and answered hurriedly, " Nothing. "

" It is now high time that thou shouldst learn something
regularly," said Philip. " Thy uncle fills thy ears with stories
and fables. Come with me, and we shall begin the Hebrew

Jacob felt an instinctive joy at the prospect of some
occupation, and he gladly took his father's hand.

" I have not yet given thee thy Arbakampfaus* although
thou art in thy seventh year," said his father. " We must
bestir ourselves, Jacob ; from this time forwards thou shalt
learn thy religion, and be instructed in our Jewish faith."

" Yes, father," said Jacob, secretly proud of being spoken
to as a reasonable being.

The father after this allotted a portion of every day to the
instruction of his son, and Jacob devoted his whole time to
his lessons, which began to obliterate from his mind his fan-
tastic day-dreams. He grew like a well- watered plant, and
became cheerful and rosy like other children ; yet his mother
often complained that he studied too much.

One day that she was lamenting this, his father endea-
voured to convince her that he was not called on to do more
than his own inclination prompted. "However, he knows
what I have promised him if he be diligent. What is it,
Jacob ? " said he to the boy, winking, as if there were a great

* A quadrangular piece of stuff, with a hole in the centre to draw it over
the shoulders. In every corner is a string of plaited thread, called zizis, or
zizitfis. This article is symbolical of the religion of the Jews, and of their
covenant with God.


secret between them. " Canst thou not whisper what I have
promised thee when thou shouldst know the eighteen prayers?
What have we on Monday ? "

" Purim," * replied the boy ; " shall we go disguised,
father ? "

" No ; but thou shalt go with me to the school,^ and hear
tnegillen^ and get leave to cudgel Hainan."

" Who is he, father, and why should I cudgel him ? "

"Dost thou not know him ? He it was who wished to have
all the Jews killed in one night ; but our God was with the
Jews, and Haman was hanged himself. See, this is what
thou must do. When thou drawest a certain cord, a hammer
will fall and strike on Haman's name ; every time that thou
nearest his name read in the story of Esther and Haman, pull
thou the cord and strike him."

" I would rather strike the real Haman, father."

" He is dead, my child," said his father, laughing at his
warmth, and patting him on the head. " If thou continuest to
be very diligent, thou shalt sit at my side at Peisach, and
read the Hagod,\\ and I t will tell thee all that happened

" Oh ! tell me now," cried Jacob, eagerly.

" No ; we only talk of that at the time of Peisach"

" How long is it till Peisach, father? "

"Four weeks. Be thou diligent and well-behaved till

The anxiously- expected feast of the Passover came at
length, its approach having been announced by manifold pre-
parations. A ship brought a large well-fastened case from
Copenhagen, which was forthwith conveyed to an empty
room at the top of the house, to be kept apart from every-
thing else, as it contained the unleavened bread. All the
glass-ware in the house was steeped three days in water, the
vessels of copper and iron purified with fire, and on the last
day before the festival the whole house was thoroughly
cleaned out. All the domestic vessels and articles in common
use were put to one side, and those reserved for this great
festival were brought forth from the keeping-places where
they had been locked up since the preceding year.

Towards the evening, when the first star twinkled in the
heavens, the master of the house wandered through the rooms

* A Jewish festival. t The church,

t The history of Esther and Haman. The Passover.

U The book in which is related the departure from Egypt.

Online LibraryMeïr GoldschmidtThe Jew of Denmark, a tale; → online text (page 1 of 25)